JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (WABC) -- Police shot and killed a man in Jersey City who they say approached them with a knife, but his family says he was having a mental health crisis.
The victim has been identified as 52-year-old Andrew Jerome Washington. He was transported to the hospital for surgery but was later pronounced dead.
"I'm just crushed because we trusted the system, we trusted that they would come and do the right thing," Washington's aunt, Lisa Mendez, said.
The Attorney General's Office has identified Officer Stephen Gigante as the ESU officer who shot Washington.
Officers responded to a home on Randolph Avenue near Bramhall Avenue just before 2:30 p.m. Sunday after EMS requested police.
It is not clear who first called EMS to the scene.
A preliminary investigation by the Attorney General's Office revealed that officers from the Jersey City Police Department attempted to communicate with Washington, but he allegedly refused to open his apartment door. Jersey City PD then called for the Jersey City Emergency Services Unit (ESU).
ESU officers attempted to communicate with Washington through the closed apartment door for over 30 minutes, according to the preliminary investigation.
Around 3:30 p.m., about an hour after EMS had first arrived at the scene, ESU members forced open the door to Washington's apartment.
Then, Washington allegedly advanced towards the officers.
In response, ESU Officer Felix DeJesus deployed his stun gun. Officer Gigante fired his service weapon, striking Washington twice.
This was the second time Washington had been shot by police in his lifetime. According to his family, Washington was shot in the arm during a confrontation with police 12 years prior.
Law enforcement recovered a knife from the scene.
Washington's family says he was suffering from a mental health crisis after he stopped taking critical medication.
His family said they did not expect a SWAT team to confront their loved one, who was reportedly in an "agitated state."
"At one point it seemed like they were going to go in and bring him out, then all of the sudden the SWAT team came in, they're telling us to back up," Mendez said. "Why are we backing up? It just turned real ugly."
On Monday, the Jersey City mayor and director of public safety said they want to be as transparent as possible with this case.
The entire incident was captured on body camera video. The New Jersey attorney general is in possession of the video and is leading this investigation.
The mayor and public safety director said what they saw on the video was in line with departmental protocol.
"The officers called for emergency services, who officially trained and are equipped to act as a team to deal with people in emotional crisis," said Public Safety Director James Shea said.
The family says they called a crisis center Saturday afternoon that had treated Washington as recently as a few days prior for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They were worried he was released too soon.
"We were more afraid he would hurt himself, not anyone else," Mendez said.
According to Washington's relatives, he was not violent. They said he had a "terrible illness."
The New Jersey Attorney General's Office says it begins an investigation any time someone dies in an encounter with a law enforcement officer.
"They need to do better when it comes to mental patients," Mendez said. "They need to be more compassionate and understanding when they act when they shoot someone, and the family members are standing outside waiting to find out and they sit here for three hours and have to act like crazy fools for them to finally tell us that they killed our nephew."
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